The new Light Phone 2 keeps things basic but adds e-ink and essentials

Light is back with a new twisting on its anti-smartphone telephone. But this time, instead of doing just one thing, the Light Phone 2 does a few, and exists somewhere between the original Light and your overwrought iPhone- though still far closer to the first-generation Light phone overall.

The new design features a matte finish e-ink display, which occupies most fo the front face of the device and can show text, act as a virtual keyboard for sending messages, indicate your contacts and alarms and more. The phone uses Light’s own proprietary operating system, which is heavy on the text and limited on the total number of options and features, and “youre using” physical keys on the side of the phone to navigate through menu options.

The Light Phone 2 has 4G LTE connectivity and, since it’s not yet finalized but is instead kicking off its Indiegogo crowdsourcing campaign, could add features including directions, ride-sharing specific apps, playlists, weather reports, and voice commands according to the company’s founders, on top of the basic call, messaging, contact book, alarm and auto-reply features that are definitely going in. Whether those other add-on features make the cut will vary depending in some proportion on backer feedback.

But with those potential additions, plus the larger, device-commanding active display, the Light Phone 2 is starting to sound a lot more smartphone-y and a lot less “Just a phone.” But LIght’s inventors say that it’s definitely not, under any circumstances, going to add social media, ad, email or news features to the phone.

Really, those are the things that truly turn our mobile companions into huge hour sucks and mood altering devices. Light Phone 2 is definitely more of a compromise than a purist dumbphone like the original, but it still also sounds like it fits the company’s chosen tagline of being “a phone for humans” better than your median flagship smartphone does today.

Light’s been out of stock of its present generation device for a while now, which was probably because it was looking forward to this launch. The phone’s Indiegogo campaign has $225 as the early bird price for the device, with $400 as the target retail cost, and calculated shipping is April of next year( yes, over a year away) so the company also seems to have learned a lesson or two about manufacturing and shipping hardware, and is devoting itself ample buffer for this redesign.

Nokia is relaunching its ‘Matrix’ slider phone and other high-concept simple phones like the Punkt MP0 1 are out there trying to wean people away from their smartphone habits. It’s an appealing dreaming, but it’s hard to tell if it’s just a brief hiccup due to information ennui, or a real movement in the early offing. How Light Phone 2’s campaign does overall might be another indicator as to which it ends up being.

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Gartner reports first ever global decline in smartphone sales

Global smartphone sales have not been firing on all cylinders for several years now but Gartner’s latest figures record the first ever decline since the analyst began tracking the market all the way back in 2004.( Though it’s not the first analyst to call a deterioration .)

Gartner’s figures peg sales of smartphones to end users in Q4 2017 at virtually 408 million divisions — a 5.6 per cent deterioration over its Q4 2016 figure.

It tells No. 1 ranked smartphone maker Samsung insured a year-on-year unit deterioration of 3.6 per cent in Q4, while sales of Apple’s iPhones fell 5 per cent in the holiday quarter, though it says Cupertino stabilized its second-place marketshare.

Gartner says two main factors led to the Q4 sales fell: A slowing of upgrades from feature phones to smartphones due to a lack of quality “ultra-low-cost” smartphones; and existing smartphone owneds selecting quality models and keeping them for longer, lengthening the replacement cycle.

Apple’s performance in Q4 was also impacted by the later availability of its new top-of-the-range iPhone X, which drove slower upgrades of its other two new smartphones, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. While component shortfalls and manufacturing capacity constraints also contributed to a long delivery cycle for the iPhone X.

Gartner tells it’s expecting a delayed sales boost for Apple in the first quarter of 2018 , now that the flagship’s delivery cycle has returned to normal.

It’s also expecting a boost for Samsung in Q1 as it unpacks its successor Galaxy flagships.

For full year 2017, Samsung carved out a 20.9 per cent marketshare to Apple’s 14.0 per cent.

Far East

Last month analyst Canalys reported a first annual decline in smartphone shipments in China — which for years took up the baton on smartphone growth from saturated Western marketplaces. But even Chinese purchasers appear to be getting tapped out.

It’s still a growth narrative for Chinese OEMs, though. And Gartner tells the combined market share of Chinese vendors in the top five increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2017, while the market share of the top two, Samsung and Apple, remained unchanged.

China’s Huawei and Xiaomi were the only smartphone vendors to actively increase their the shares in Q4, according to Gartner, with year-on-year unit growth in the holiday one-quarter of seven. 6 and 79 per cent, respectively.

The analyst credits Huawei’s uplift to broadening the appeal of its portfolio with new handset launchings in the one-quarter. It also says Xiaomi’s “competitive” portfolio accelerating its growth in the emerging APAC market and helped it win back lost share in China.

Huawei remained in third place in the global smartphone vendor rankings, taking a 9.8 per cent share in full year 2017 and shrinking the gap with Apple and Samsung.

Overall, Gartner says total smartphone marketings exceeded 1.5 billion divisions in 2017 — a year-on-year strengthening of 2.7 per cent.

On the OS front, Google’s Android platform extended its lead in 2017, taking an 86 per cent share of the total market, up 1.1 percentage points from a year ago. While iOS took 14 per cent.( The “other OS” category shriveled to a nearly non-existent 0.1 per cent .)

And as the world’s biggest mobile tradeshow, MWC, rolls around again, there will be some fresh Android-powered handsets being unboxed in the coming days — including from Samsung, Nokia-branded HMD and others.

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Essential Phone gets a $200 price drop, existing customers get credit

Essential has an offer that’s candidly very hard to refuse: The cost of the Essential Phone( PH-1, going by technological model number ), is now $200 cheaper, so $499 off-contract and unlocked. That’s an amazing cost for their debut smartphone, which remains my favorite in terms of straight up industrial design( and it has one of the best color-tuned displays in devices right now in my opinion ).

The Essential Phone went on sale just a few months ago, but the company is therefore of the opinion that as a young startup merely get out therein a market where incumbents like Apple and Samsung basically take up all the available space, there’s a lot of value in word of mouth and perceived value. That’s why it’s making this price change, Essential tells me- though you have to also wonder whether the company’s not assuring the numbers it was hoping for to its implementation of initial marketings, which is what some early third-party sales estimates have suggested.

Regardless of the reason, the price drop builds Essential arguably the best value smartphone on the market, and definitely the best Android device in that scope. It’s one major failing has been its camera, which launched as a slow and buggy feature compared to most out there, but the subsequent camera software updates have improved its velocity and reliability a lot, and more updates are promised in the future, too.

Lest Essential’s earliest customers feel slighted, it has a deal for early purchasers, too- they’ll receive a $200′ friends and family’ credit they can use to further discount( valid through December 15, 2017) a device for a loved one( or another for themselves, if they maybe also want the just-released white Essential Phone, for example ), or to buy the 360 -camera attachment. Customers will be able to sign up to redeem the $200 credit on the Essential page, using their phone’s IMEI and serial numbers, along with the email address they used to purchase.

In a period when the price of flagship smartphones in both iOS and Android worlds are ballooning, this is a very welcome nod to affordability. Without question, if you want an amazing phone at a murderer cost, the now $499 Essential Phone is the one to get.

Also, this is U.S. only for now- details on a programme designed for Canadian device adherents will follow, per Essential.

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India overtakes the US to become the worlds second largest smartphone market

Move over America, India is now the world’s second largest smartphone market.

That’s according to a new report from Canalys which claims smartphone shipments in India crossed the 40 million mark for the first time in Q3 2017 courtesy of 23 percentage annual growth. That means that India has overtaken the U.S. on sales with only China ahead of it.

Given the huge gulf in populations — India’s stands at over 1.3 billion while the U.S. is around 320 million — the move had been expected for some time, but most recent developments, including demonetization in late 2016, defined progress back during recent quarters.

“This growth comes as a relief to the smartphone industry. Doubts about India’s market potential are clearly dispelled by this result, ” Canalys analyst Ishan Dutt said in a statement.

Despite the landmark, watchers have long said that India’s smartphone market is one that will require patience. China, for example, is far ahead with more than 110 million shipments per one-quarter but issues such as complicated supply chains, local retail statutes, importation taxes, lower GDP and poorer quality internet are likely to restrict India’s marketings for some time.

India may not is currently under China levels yet, but there are plenty of familiar names from the country that dominate the India market.

Earlier this year, Chinese brands and Samsung squeezed India’s phone companies from the top vendor list and they continue to lead the field today.

According to Canalys’ numbers, Samsung remains top with 9.4 million shipments in Q2, up nearly 30 percentage, but Xiaomi seems set to overtake it soon after growing by over 290 percent year-on-year to reaching 9.2 million units.

Chinese trio Vivo, Oppo and Lenovo rounded out the five largest, while Apple is nowhere to be seen. The U.S. is said to have shipped a record 2.5 million devices in India in 2016, with progress made in urban areas. However the comparatively high price of the iPhone constructs it difficult to gain wide mainstream adoption despite the introduction of lower-priced devices and discounts for older models.

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The iPhone X reveals why Tim Cook was so mad about Palm

At the unveiling of Apple’s new flagship smartphone yesterday, the iPhone X, CEO Tim Cook said it was something the company’s faculty had been working on for a decade.

The new premium handset with its edge-to-edge display( minus one unfortunate top notch) does away with the physical home button wholly and induces greater employ of gestures for controlling the UI.

The new interface for multitasking seems fluid and intuitive. But it also — if you’ve been smartphone watching for long enough — engenders a distinct feeling of deja vu…

Specifically it looks rather like webOS operating on the Palm Pre — a handset that was announced in 2009, after Jon Rubinstein, former SVP of Apple’s iPod division, had been lured out of retirement in Mexico by Palm: A mobile device company with a( very) long history, and enough self-perspective to realize they needed an experienced product designer to help them surf the next wave of mobility: touchscreen computing.

Rubinstein, who had left Apple in springtime 2006, clearly possessed the sought for design chops. Palm execs flew down to Mexico to woo and win their man.

By the start of 2009 Rubinstein was on stage at CES to announce the Palm Pre: A high-gloss, pebble-shaped slider smartphone which deployed multiple gestures in the UI attaining the most of a touch-sensitive region that widened below the display and onto the bezel itself.

It wasn’t only the scroll-flicks and pinch-to-zooms already on the iPhone and Android devices of the time that Palm had brought over to its next-gen smartphone hardware. It had something else up its sleeve: Its webOS UI incorporated a deck-of-cards activity interface to be the driver for low friction mobile multitasking.

Palm showed how users could easily swipe between and tap on the cards to switch apps. How the order of cards could be rearranged with a thumb press and drag. And how individual cards could be flicked off the top of the screen when the user was done with a particular app or task. Cards indicated fully active apps. It was simple and elegant.

“Now how’s that for some real newness, ” said Matias Duarte, Palm’s senior director of human interface and user experience, with a pretty sizable grin on his face as he wrapped up that part of the Pre’s CES demo.

( Duarte now works on Google’s card-like Material Design design language, which extends the card motif the company first used in Android, for Google Now, in 2012; and “hes been gone” straight from Palm to being a VP of design at Android when the feature was being developed .)

In an earnings bellow later the same month in 2009, Cook was pressed by analysts about how quickly the iPhone’s challengers appeared to be elbowing into the market — and asked how Apple would be able to sustain its leadership.

“We don’t mind competition, but if others rip off our intellectual property, we will go after them, ” he responded in a comment that was picked up on and interpreted at the time as a pretty stark alerting shot across Palm’s bows.

When pressed again specifically on the Palm Pre, and how the device seemed to “directly imitate the iPhone’s innovative interface”, Cook doubled down on his implied accusation of IP theft: “We don’t want to refer to any particular companies, so that was a general statement. We like rivalry because it stimulates us better, but we will not stand for companies contravening on our IP.”

Of course this is all water under the bridge now, as Palm’s dreams of successfully surfing the smartphone wave ended in abrupt disaster — burdened by ongoing legacy software challenges, wrong-footed by carriers’ marketing decisions and ultimately saddled with an unloving acquirer in HP — and the Palm Pre had a cruelly short lifespan for such a forward-thinking device.

I remember how fresh the interface felt in 2009. How tremendously advanced vs legacy smartphone players like BlackBerry and Nokia — which, although they were still minting huge revenues back then, were also clearly failing to come to terms rapidly enough with the paradigm transformation of touchscreen mobility.

Whether the Palm Pre was genuinely ahead of its period, or whether the components of the interface had been plucked out of a carefully schemed Cupertino 10 -year roadmap will be a story for Valley historians to unpick.

But in the iPhone X it’s clear you’re looking at a little ghost of the Pre.

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Apple is looking into reports of iPhone 8 batteries swelling

Reports from a few iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus buyers have suggested there could be an issue with the battery inside some of the devices swelling, causing the case of Apple’s new iPhone to split open and uncover the smartphone’s internals.

Apple has now corroborated it is looking into it, although a spokesperson declined to comment further when asked how many devices are affected.

From what we’ve heard the number of reports so far is very few.

Yesterday CNET rounded up the handful of reports that have emerged — saying there are at least six different reports in at least five countries of the iPhone 8 splitting along its seams.

Today Reuters also noted a report in Chinese country media of an iPhone purchaser claiming a freshly bought iPhone 8 Plus arrived cracked open on October 5, though apparently without any signs of scorching or an explosion.

Apple rival Samsung had big problems with smartphone batteries in its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone. In that instance some Note 7 batteries caught flame, and their own problems was extensive enough that it led Samsung to recall all Note 7 handsets — at great expense.

In the case of the iPhone 8 the questions appears to be limited to batteries bloating/ swelling, rather than catching flame — at the least as reported so far.

Although the phone merely went on sale on September 22 so it’s still early days for the device.

Apple did not release figures for the first weekend sales of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, as it has in the past with new iPhones, so it’s also not yet clear how many of these handsets are in the hands of purchasers at this point.

Some analysts have suggested customers may be holding off on upgrading their iPhone to buy the top-of-the-range iPhone X, which Apple also announced at the same day, but with a later release date.

Pre-sales for the iPhone X are due to begin on October 27, with the handset slated to ship on November 3.

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Escher Reality is building the backend for cross-platform mobile AR

The potential of mobile augmented reality is clear. Last summer Pokemon Go gave a glimpse of just how big this craze could be, as thousands of aroused humans converged on parks, bus stops and other locations around the world to chase virtual ogres through the lens of their smartphones.

Apple was also watching. And the summer months the company signaled its own conviction in the technology by announcing ARKit: a developer toolkit to support iOS developers to build augmented reality apps. CEO Tim Cook said iOS will become the worlds biggest augmented reality platform once iOS 11 hits consumers devices in fall underlining Cupertinos expectation that big things are coming down the mobile AR pipe.

Y Combinator-backed, MIT spin-out Escher Realitys notion in the social power of mobile AR predates both sets of trigger phases. Its constructing a cross-platform toolkit and custom backend for mobile AR developers, aiming to lower the barrier to entry to building compelling experiences, as the co-founders set it.

Keep in mind this was before Pokemon Go, says CEO Ross Finman, discussing how he and CTO Diana Hu founded the company approximately one year and a half ago, initially as a bit of a side project before going all in full hour last November. Everyone thought we were crazy at that time, and now this summer its the summer for mobile augmented reality ARKit has been the best thing ever for us.

But if Apple has ARKit, and you can bet Google will be coming out with an Android equivalent in the not-too-distant future, where exactly does Escher Reality come in?

Think of us more as the backend for augmented reality, says Finman. What we offer is the cross-platform, multiuser and persistent experiences so those are three things that Apple and ARKit doesnt do. So if you want to do any type of shared AR experience you need to connect the two different devices together so then thats what we offer Theres a lot of computer vision problems associated with that.

Think about their own problems of what ARKit doesnt offer you, adds Hu. If youve insured a lot of the present demos outside, theyre okay-ish, you can see 3D models there, but when you start thinking longer term what does it take to create obligating AR experiences? And part of that is a lot of the tooling and a lot of the SDK are not there to provide that functionality. Because as game developers or app developers they dont want to think about all that low level stuff and theres a lot of genuinely complex techs going on that we have built.

If you think about in the future, as AR becomes a bigger movement, as the next computing platform, it will need a backend to support a lot of the networking, it will need a lot of the tools that were building in order to build compelling AR experiences.

We will be offering Android support for now, but then we imagine Google will probably come out with something like that in the future, adds Finman, couching that part of the business as the free bit in freemium and one theyre hence more than happy to hand off to Google when the time comes.

The team has put together a demo to illustrate the kinds of mobile AR gaming experiences theyre aiming to support in which two people play the same mobile AR game, each employing their own device as a paddle

What youre looking at here is very low latency, custom computer vision network protocols enabling two players to share augmented reality at the same hour, as Hu explains it.

Sketching another scenario the tech could enable, Finman tells it could support a version of Pokemon Go in which friends could battle each other at the same hour and see their Pokemons opposed in real day. Or allow players to locate a Gym at a very specific location that stimulates sense in the real-world.

In essence, the teams bet is that mobile AR especially mobile AR gaming gets a whole lot more interesting with is supportive of richly interactive and multiplayer apps that the project works cross-platform and cross device. So theyre build tools and a backend to supporting developers wanting to build apps that can connect Android users and iPhone owners in the same augmented play space.

After all, Apple especially isnt incentivized to help support AR collaboration on Android. Which leaves room for a neutral third party to help bridge platform and hardware gaps and smooth AR play for every mobile gamer.

The core tech is basically knitting different SLAM maps and network connections together in an efficient way, tells Finman, i.e. without the latency that would make a game unplayable, so that it runs in real-time and is a consistent experience. So tuning everything up for mobile processors.

We go down to , not just even the network layer, but even to the general assembly level so that we can run some of the execution instructions very efficiently and some of the image processing on the GPU for telephones, tells Hu. So on a high level it is a SLAM system, but the exact method and how we engineered it is novel for efficient mobile devices.

Consider ARKit as step one, were steps two and three, adds Finman. You can do multi-user experiences, but then you can also do persistent experiences once you turn off the app, once “youre starting” it up again, all the objects that “youve left” will be in the same location.

Consider ARKit as step one, were steps two and three .

People can collaborate in AR experiences at the same hour, adds Hu. Thats one main thing that we can really offer, that Google or Apple wouldnt provide.

Hardware wise, their system supports premium smartphones from the last three years. Although, looking ahead, they say they see no reason why they wouldnt expand to supporting additional types of hardware such as headsets when/ if those start gaining traction too.

In mobile theres a billion devices out there that can run augmented reality right now , notes Finman. Apple has one part of the market, Android has a larger part. Thats where youre go to the most adoption by developers in the short term.

Escher Reality was founded approximately one year and a half ago, spun out of MIT and initially bootstrapped in Finmans dorm room first as a bit of a side project, before they went all in full time in November. The co-founders go back a decade or so as friends, and say they had often kicked around startup ideas and been interested in augmented reality.

Finman describes the business theyve objective up co-founding as actually just a nice combination of both of our backgrounds. For me I was working on my PhD at MIT in 3D perception its the same type of technology underneath, he tells TechCrunch.

Ive been in industry running a lot of different squads in computer vision and data science, adds Hu. So a lot of experience bringing research into production and house large scale data systems with low latency.

They now have five people working full time on the startup, and two part period. At this point the SDK is being used by a limited number of developers, with a wait-list for new sign ups. Theyre aiming to open up to all up-and-comers in fall.

Were targeting games studios to begin with, tells Finman. The technology can be used across many different industries but were going after gaming first because they are usually at the cutting edge of new technology and adoption, and then theres a whole bunch of really smart developers that are going after interesting new projects.

One of the reasons why augmented reality is considered so much bigger, the shared experiences in the real world really opens up a whole lot of new capabilities and interactions and experiences that are going to improve the current guess of augmented reality. But truly it opens up the door for so many different possibilities, he adds.

Discussing some of the compelling experiences the team see coming down the mobile AR pipe, he points to three regions he reckons the technology can especially support namely: instruction, visualization and entertainment.

When you have to look at a piece of paper and imagine whats in the real world for building anything, get direction, having distance professions, thats all going to need shared augmented reality experiences, he suggests.

Although, in the nearer word, customer entertainment( and specifically gaming) is the teams first bet for traction.

In the amusement space in the consumer side, youre go to short films so beyond just Snapchat, its kind of real time special effects, that you are able to video and set up your own various kinds of movie scene, he suggests.

Designing games in AR does also present developers with new conceptual and design challenges, of course, which in turn bring additional development challenges and the toolkit is being designed to help with those challenges.

If you think about augmented reality theres two new mechanics that you can work with; one is the position of the phone now matters , notes Finman. The second thing is the real world become content. So like the map data, the real world, can be integrated into the game. So this really is two mechanics that didnt exist in any other medium before.

From a developer standpoint, one added constraint with augmented reality is because it depends on the real world its difficult to debug so weve developed tools so that you can play back logs. So then you can actually run through videos that were in the real world and interact with it in a simulated environment.

Discussing some of the ideas and clever mechanics theyre seeing early developers playing with, he indicates color as one interesting area. Guessing about the real world as content is really fascinating, he tells. Think about color as a resource. So then you can mine color from the real world. So if you want more gold, put up more Post-It notes.

The business model for Escher Realitys SDK is usage based, entailing they will charge developers for usage on a sliding scale that reflects the success of their applications. Its also offered as a Unity plug-in so the specific objectives developers can easily integrate into current dev environments.

Its a very similar model to Unity, which encourages a very healthy indie developer ecosystem where theyre not charging any fund until you actually start making money, tells Hu. So developers can start working on it and during developing hour they dont get charged anything, even when they launch it, if they dont have that many users they dont get charged, its only when they start making money we also start making money so in that sense a lot of the incentives align pretty well.

The startup, which is graduating YC in the summer 2017 batch and now headed towards demo day, will be looking to raise funding so that they are able to amp up their bandwidth to subsistence more developers. Once theyve got additional outside investment procured the plan is to sign on and work with as many gaming studios as is practicable, tells Finman, as well as be head down on constructing the product.

The AR space is just exploding at the moment so we need to make sure we can move fast enough to keep up with it, he adds.

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How not to launch a company in the U.S. lessons learned from LeEco

After a months long procession of endless red flag, LeEcos Stateside woes finally came to a head this week. The company announced that it would be laying off 325 employees in the U.S. alone. And judging from a number of address forwarding emails I received, the company moved swiftly and without much warning.

Its always easier to Monday morning quarterback all of this after the shit has hit the fan, but nothing about this weeks bad news was sudden. Keep in intellect, the company has had a meaningful presence in the U.S. for less than a year. That big, flashy press conference merely happened in mid-October. Thats a fairly astonishingly fast pace for this kind of all out implosion, but the warning signs have been there since pretty much the beginning.

Of course, LeEco doesnt see if that way. The company refuses to qualify the loss of more than 300 tasks as an abject failure. Its saying what it tells pretty much every time it stumbles its not a problem with strategy, its only a failure to secure fund. We heard a similar statement when it ran into issues with its recent attempt to take on India.

Asked for specific comment on the news, LeEco gave TechCrunch the same sort letter its been handing out to anyone who asks. We believe that our vision to remove the barriers between screens for consumers is right, and analysts have acknowledged this, the company writes. Because we cant access the capital needed at this time, we will need to take a phased approach to the U.S. market.

But a phased approach shouldnt be what you do after your company is forced to layoff hundreds of people. Its the strategy a smart business takes from the outset. As any successful international firm can tell you, entering a new market is hard, especially when it presents such an extreme culture shifting as discrepancies between China and the U.S. Just look at all of the questions Apple has run into as its run the other way.

For LeEco, baby steps only wouldnt do. Brashness and bravado were essential to the companys big, flashy reveal. It purchased 50 -acres of land from Yahoo in the heart of the Silicon Valley, a bold and expensive sign it had planted its flag, with a schemed campus that voiced as much like a amusement park as a place of work.

When the time came to actually launch in the State, it didnt only announce a smartphone or a Tv. It let the public know that it was going to be everything to everyone a little bit Apple, a little bit Netflix, a little Tesla and a little Amazon. Oh, and there was a VR headset, bicycle and a Michael Bay cameo throw in for good measure, along with footage from The Great Wall , a Matt Damon vehicle the company had helped render in hopes of get a piece of the studio system.

But the wheels came off rapidly. The company ultimately delivered a fraction of what it promised. Had it only promised a smartphone or two while it worked to better assess the U.S. market, the company would have had a lot shorter way to autumn. Theres nothing exception about misreading a new market the first the first time around. Ultimately, the company didnt only fly too close to the sun, it promised the world a newer, hotter sun and the rest of the solar system to boot.

Its tough not to insure the companys freshly restructured plan an wonder how its lucks might be different if it had taken that tact from the outset. The freshly repositioned company is targeting its products specifically toward Chinese-speaking households in the U.S. precisely the people who can benefit from the Netflix of China content service its been building for some time. Thats a large market, and an easy one to assist transition into a new part of the world while the company constructs out its own English speech content offerings.

Likely the companys speech is just some blustery corporate talk. Its hard for companies and politicians alike to admit failure. Its far easier to chalk things up to external forces beyond your control. Hopefully behind the scenes, the company recognise its mistakes and espouses the switching in gears as a new strategy forward, rather than a temporary adjustment until it figures out how to get more money flooding in from its investors.

Because this kind of corporate failure means a lot more than only one fewer smartphone choice on store shelves this year. Its 325 people who suddenly find themselves out of work, a very real human cost.

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The difference between smartphone gimmick and game changer

Its hard to find a legitimately bad flagship phone these days. Sure, one peeks its head out from time to time, but on a whole most telephones are pretty good. The screens, the cameras, the internals. There are always a few bits that could use improving( find: battery and durability ), but the gulf between good and bad isnt any near where it once was.

And for the past several generations, most flagship devices even more or less looking the same. Sure, the fingerprint reader/ home button gets moved around here or there, but most casual observers probably couldnt pick a non-iPhone/ Galaxy out of a lineup. Perhaps its a matter of copied intellectual property, or maybe there really is an ideal form factor for a pocket-sized communication device thats mostly screen.

Its tough to distinguish yourself when youre not a top-tier smartphone company a qualifier that, in the State at least, seems to apply to pretty much everyone who isnt a Samsung or Apple. Given how cut throat the overcrowded industry can be when youre not in the two top( and, lets be honest, even if you are ), its no amaze that the many companies seem to be looking increasingly toward distinguishing factors.

Gimmicks arent bad in and of themselves. After all, once it reaches mainstream acceptance, its not really a gimmick anymore. Its a standard feature. Take waterproofing. When a handful of manufacturers started dipping their telephones in aquaria at trade shows, it initially seemed like a cry for attention. But we kind of all secretly wantedone. A few years later, its a no-brainer for flagships because its not just about going snorkeling, its about getting caught in a cloudburst and, yes, accidentally dunking the thing in the toilet.

Sometimes a bag full of dry rice just isnt enough.

The flipside of that is the Alcatels A5 LED. Its the phone equivalent of those L.A. Lights shoes from the 90 s, with heels that flashed every time they hitthe ground. Its a hail Mary pass of sorts and a tacit acknowledgement that maybe smartphones arent much more than big, expensive toys.

A good gimmick, on the other hand, is one that actually brings something to the experience of owning a phone. Its a rare moment of believing outside the box that, if pulled off successfully, can actually be a cause to rethink things. LGs own numbers have stumbled a little bit, but thats not for lack of interesting ideas. The company was among the first to introduce a dual-lens camera( the V2 0) and to offer a taller form-factor( G6 ), both of which are becoming standard features in flagships.

Of course, those handsets are also great examples of how a good gimmick alone isnt enough to make a phone a success. An even more obvious instance comes in the form of the G5. The handset was released at what seemed the height of interest in modular telephones. But research results was downright disastrous, with the phone shouldering much of the blame of the companys resulting financial straits. That didnt, however, mean that modularity is doomed to failure. Announced not all that long after the G5, Motorola/ Lenovos Moto Z line has been a marked success for the company. Its already announced millions sold an accomplishment for a line many simply wrote off at launch.

The differences between the execution of the phones is fairly stark. For starters, the Z is a solid piece of hardware, an object lesson in that fact that you cant rest on gimmick alone. The magnetic power system is also the best modular execution to date. And then theres the fact that the phone launched with multiple useful mods. Like a game console needs games, a modularity phone without mods is a pretty usefulness proposition.

Of course, singular success for Motorola does not translate to a game changer in this case. Other companies are likely flirting more with the idea of modularity, but its not like several other companies rushed out to launch their own modular solution in the past year.

The jury is still out on the HTC U11. Even more so, truly, as the phone hasnt even hit the market. For now, though, Edge Sense seems like little more than a gimmick. The actual functionality it brings to the handset is limited at best. The company has promised more utilizes for the squeezable sides moving forward, but the ability to launch apps isnt the kind of compelling feature that drives users to buy phones.

Theres nothing incorrect with a gimmick, so long as it isnt a gimmick for its own sake. To be successful, it needs to bea meaningful feature that adds usefulfunctionality to a device, executed in a way that doesnt detract from the rest of the phone experience. And its important not to be shortsighted. Manufacturers cant rest on its laurels and skimp on the rest of the hardware and software.

Otherwise, you might as well be selling light up sneakers.

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Judah Vs. The Machines: The race for prowess against a toy car

In the most recent installment of Judah vs The Machines, Judah ventures down to Anki, a company combining augmented reality and artificial intelligence to entertain fans of racing games. Anki utilizes smartphone cameras and a dedicated app to recreate the imagery of racing combats happens in a real physical way in front of you.

Judah challenges three autonomous Anki automobiles to a death match complete with weapons. The race takes place in the only way a lawless, all-out automotive war could take place with all the road rage and raw emotion humans are capable of.

The nice thing about Anki automobiles is that theyre not designed to replace humans. They may actually be the future of leisureif robots wind up leaving us jobless. Ankis technology is already “re ready for” primetime; their high-tech automobiles can be found at major retailers.

See all eight episodes of Judah vs. the Machineshere.

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